Keep playing and injustice will pass you by. The ‘collective and democratic music’ experiment turns 40.
El Sistema, one of the world’s most extraordinary democratic educational projects, is almost 40 years old. In February 1975, with eight of his pupils in Caracas, Venezuelan concert pianist and economist José Antonio Abreu founded the first symphony orchestra aimed at giving kids from the city’s most underprivileged neighbourhoods the opportunity to play music together. The idea was to get them off the streets, as the saying goes, but it was more than that, as Abreu explains: “When a poor child starts playing an instrument at home, they transform the people around them too. Their commitment is an example to others, and if they leave their neighbourhood to play in public, their self-esteem improves as well”.